Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sherlock Holmes In Summer


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Sherlock Holmes? In Summer?
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Usually I think of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories and novels as Winter reading, but I might read some this summer. For back-up, I have not only the Baring-Gould two-volume annotated edition but also Leslie S. Klinger's three-volume annotated set from W.W. Norton. Klinger is typical of Holmes enthusiasts, insofar as he is an amateur scholar in the best sense of the word; he researches Holmes for the love of it. He is a lawyer by profession.

Another key element to Holmesian enthusiasm is that one must assume that Conan Doyle, Watson, Holmes, and pretty much anyone else who wanders by exist in the same world. The boundary between reality and fiction disappeared long ago; at least that's the way the game is played.

Holmes wasn't much for poetry or literature in general, although early on he takes a shot (figuratively) at Poe's Dupin, helping to erase that boundary I just mentioned: Fictional Holmes speaks of fictional Dupin as if the latter weren't fictional, and the game is afoot.

Nonetheless, Conan Doyle's Holmes stories appeal to readers and writers of poetry--at least to some of us--perhaps because they are so ritualized, and because Holmes is as much a driven, obsessive artist--monomaniacal--as he is the human apogee of rationalism and Enlightenment.

Although I relish dipping into the annotated editions, I still prefer the old Doubleday hardback or, in a pinch, a Penguin selected edition of some kind. Christopher Morley's introduction to the Doubleday collection remains charming.

True, with such things as Iranian society, American health-care, wars, famine (and so forth) at stake, reading Holmes becomes obviously escapist, but at the same time, maybe a person can be aware of and engaged in events and crises and, at the same time, take a breather to dip into familiar reading.

Here is a link, at any rate, to a site that is a gateway to numerous other Holmes-related sites (in case you happen to be an enthusiast, too):

http://www.sherlock-holmes.org/english.htm
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